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Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

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posts: 947
reviews: 60
Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

Thinking about flying into Denver, renting car and driving to Grand Junction then South to Durango through Telluride and Ouray with side trips from there.

Just wondering about the return route to Denver. If we headed over to Pagosa Springs - would the roads be ok from there North on 285 - or is there a better route. We could do Pagosa Spr. as a side trip from Durango, since we will be there a week.

Is a side trip to Monument Valley too far as a day trip from Durango? We could possibly do that first - sort of wanting to stay at that beautiful new Hotel in the Valley anyway for one night and do a tour through the area.

Guess I am just looking for route suggestions. We will have 10 days for sure - possibly 2 weeks. Would there be any advantage to flying into a different airport? Not a small airport though :0)

thanks all.

Durango, CO
posts: 87
reviews: 4
1. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

You should have clear roads to drive through Pagosa springs (don't forget to stop at the hot springs!) Wolf Creek, South Fork and return to Denver via 285. Monument Valley is too far for a day trip from Durango though. Some other good day trip suggestions-4 wheeling in Silverton, Driving to 4 corners and Hovenweep, Mesa verde, rafting on the Animas river to name a few. The closest major airport to Durango is actually Albuquerque...but it sounds like you want to visit Colorado, not New Mexico. I live here and it's a great place to vacation-have fun!

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
posts: 6,914
reviews: 100
2. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

Where does the week in Durango fit in your schedule? How many days do you have to get from Denver to Durango and how many days to get from Durango back to Denver?

If you have extra days to get from Denver to Durango, you could include Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah on your way from Grand Junction to Monument Valley. On your way from Durango back to Denver add Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Tacoma, Washington
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 3,816
reviews: 1
3. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

How many days are you driving??

Monument Valley will be about 3 hrs one way so a long day trip.

Unsure your timeline or what you want to explore.

You could do a drive where from Montrose you drive to Telluride then down ro cortez, day trip to Monument valley, then to Durrango up to Ouray then drive around to Lake city then down to Pagosa springs then to Alamosa then back to Denver by going a couple different way (through breckonridge, US 285, US 50, or the southern route just south of Sand Dunes then up I-25)

number of days matter.

posts: 947
reviews: 60
4. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

okay - after all these great suggestions - we are considering flying to Las Vegas and driving to Durango from there - seeing Monument Valley and Mesa Verde on the way and then not running around too much after getting to Durango - just short side trips to Silverton, Pagosa Spr., etc.

Has anyone done this drive? We drove to Kanab, Bryce Canyon and Gr. Canyon a few years back - but not further East.

any suggestions on routes? Should I re-post my question?

thanks all................

Columbia, Maryland
posts: 1,099
reviews: 4
5. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

The drive from Denver to Durango will be much more scenic than coming from Las Vegas. You will be going over mountains as opposed to crossing the desert. While driving across the desert is interesting in its own way, it can't compare to the mountains.

If you do go from Las Veags, come across route 89. You will drive through some interesting scenery on that from Kanab to Page. Spend a night or 2 in Page. Check the Arizona forum for things in Page. From Page take AZ 98 to US 160. Take 163 off 160 at Kayento to get to Monument Valley. Take US163 AZ 162 back to US 160. You'll be crossing desert terrain and Navajo Nation all the way to on this until you reach Cortez.

Coming from Denver to Grand Junction to Durango and back to Denver you can do a circle route via a number of ways - all scenic.

Here's one suggestion - kind of reverse of your initial idea and less white knuckle between Durango and Ouray.

From Denver take 285 to Buena Vista. Stay on 285 to US 160 to Durango. From Durango 550 north to 50 to Grand Junction. From Grand Junction, I70 to Denver.

Its about 6 hours from Denver to Durango. Stops along the route can be Grat Sand Dunes National Park east of Alamosa. On the way from Durango to Grand Junction are Ouray and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

posts: 947
reviews: 60
6. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

Thank you Dave - yes, we know driving from Denver would be more scenic - just trying to cut costs a bit - figured driving from Las Vegas would hit two of our spots 'on our way' to Durango. If we could cut 2-3 days from the trip - that would be a substantial SUM. Less time in hotels, less time on the road and less money for car rental.

Since we have driven both ways before - from Las Vegas a few years ago and from Denver via Ouray and Durango MANY years ago - it is a toss up. We did not visit Monument Valley or Mesa Verda on those trips though.

Rental cars are definitely cheaper in Las Vegas and we can probably snag a good air fare too. Would prefer Denver (decent air fare but expensive autos) and our #1 pick would be PHX since we have family there - but not many air deals and cars are expensive. :0(

We will probably play with all three routes for a while yet and if we snag a fantastic airfare - that will determine our chosen route. There just aren't many airfare deals anymore :0( We have even considered making the drive from home - been there/done that and really not wanting to spend that much time on the road again :0)

Thanks for all the suggestions we have received. TA'ers are a great bunch of folks!! THANKS!!

Columbia, Maryland
posts: 1,099
reviews: 4
7. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

Good for you for thinking about cost. Many peolple forget about the $$$ part of a trip. Lodging and eating out add quite a bit to the trip cost. On our trip we tried to stay at places that served a breakfast and we bought a foam cooler as a "refrigerator" when we arrived and packed breakfast stuff (milk, juice, cereal) for places that didn't have breakfast and stuff to make lunches.

If you're going to base in Durango, look up condos and cabins in Durango. Much cheaper over several days than a motel plus you cansave on eating and have a place to do laundry to cut down on what you have to pack.

You may already know this stuff as it sounds like you've made some road trip before.

For Mesa Verde, allow at least one full day. THere are 2 mesas and in one day you can fully cover one of them. I think Chapin mesa is the better of the 2 - you can drive the entire route and you have 2 tours to choose from - Cliff Palace and Balcony House. Cliff Palace is the one you always see the pictures of. THere is also self guided Spruce Tree House - about a half mile walk down to it. THe Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is also avaiable there. Driving the route, doing 1 guided tour, Spruce Tree House, Museum, and driving the 2 loops and stopping at all the sites took a full day. We were based in DUrango. Its about 45 minute to the park but about another half hour from the park entrance to the Far View area where you get tour tickets.

We stayed in Ferringway Condos in Durango. Nice places, fully equipped with towels, linnens, even soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent. Nice places overlooking Durango.

DO you plan on taking the Durango and Silverton train? THey have various packages where you can take the train one way (3.5 hours) and take a bus back and even combination train and jeep tour packages that take you up into the mountains around Silverton. Check the Durango and Silverton RR site for these packages. If you do, I can make some recommendations on riding the train.

posts: 947
reviews: 60
8. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

Thanks again Dave. Yes, we are fairly frugal travelers with an occasional splurge - ha ha. Appreciated your Mesa Verde suggestions. We may just do a day trip from Durango on that - we are early risers. We have our condo booked in Durango already and it has a kitchenette. But sounds like there are some pretty good eateries in Durango :0) I don't mind cooking but not every meal :0)

Yes, we plan to to the Train to Silverton and likely will do the Jeep/Train combo. We did a jeep tour around Sedona a few years back and really enjoyed it. Planning to scratch white water rafting off our bucket list this trip as well :0)

thanks again, everyone, for all your help -

Columbia, Maryland
posts: 1,099
reviews: 4
9. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

If you are riding the train only one way

From Durango to Silverton get a seat on the RIGHT side.

From Silverton to Durango get a seat on the LEFT side.

The farther back in the train the better. For the vintage coaches, if I remember correctly, the lower the car number the further back. But call and check when you make reservations. THe windows in the vintage coaches are large and the view is good. They can be open if it is hot. The temperature in Silverton will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Durango.

You are free to roam about the train. Spend some time in the open car. You can stand or if there is a free seat sit for a bit.

Columbia, Maryland
posts: 1,099
reviews: 4
10. Re: Suggestions on Route late May - Denver - Durango - Denver

One more tip for fellow frugal travelers.

We bought some frozen veggies and such and pre made stuff (like rotisserie chicken) at the grocery store and ate it in the condo.

We found the Albertsons in Durango to be really expensive. There is a Super Walmart just south of town.